Larry Murphy release shows Irish justice system up for the joke that it is.


Although it's hard to draw many positives from the release after a mere decade in jail of a sexual offender whose attack was so astoundingly violent that even the police service seem to remain in palpable fear, perhaps the one good thing to come out of it is that the world is now talking about - and laughing at - the decrepit state of the Irish justice system.

As one commenter did well to note on this website: "you double park you get a day in court , you kill someone you get a pat on the back." Of course that's a bit exaggerated, but there's more than a kernel of truth there.

The Irish justice system was built on the solid backbone of our own ancient Brehon law, and more recently from the English Common Law. Yet from these solid foundations, something began to crumble.

Among the many problems facing the Irish justice system as it stands today is that unlike Ronseal - the trust gardening paint of that famous commercial - it doesn't do what it says on the tin.

A 'life sentence', according to the latest figures, now works out at a little over 17 years, which is just one year shorter than the average lifespan of a black forest bear, but certainly comes nowhere close to matching the natural lifespan of a flesh and blood mortal.

But the real problem - besides these farcical 'life sentences' - is the ubiquity of the 'suspended sentence', whereby the 'prisoner' avoids prison by abiding by certain conditions, most of which are usually met.

Unlike in America, where suspended sentences are generally reserved only for first time offenders, the suspended sentence is a staple at almost all levels of the Irish criminal justice system. In 2008 a sister convicted of the manslaughter of her brother got such a deal from the Central Criminal Court. Calling this a shambles wouldn't go far enough.

One of the 'courts' section articles which abides in my memory was an absolute gem of a story which the trusty Irish Independent picked up on last September.

The article stated that one in seven prisoners had to be released from Irish prisons because of of overcrowding.

This meant that up to 600 inmates at a time were walking free on temporary release simply because there wasn't enough room for them in the nation's prisons. There could be one outside my window.

There are times, many time, when the famously laid-back Irish approach to life provides great humour.

When you come back home from somewhere as high stress and hard working as America to road work crews packing up for the day at 4:00pm there's a bit of a laugh and a charm there.

But having arguably the most inefficient and hopelessly lenient criminal justice system in the world - as demonstrated by the Larry Murphy release - is cause for only shame. Yet who's counting on change?

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